For every question, there’s really an answer, you sometimes just have to spend a little bit more time thinking about it and take a step back and look at what’s actually in front of you.

James Fells

James likes logic puzzles. And word problems.

Luckily, he gets to apply these interests in his work every day. James is a computational chemist – he works with Merck’s chemistry teams, applying predictive modelling to identify ways to design drugs and analyze data to help our scientists prioritize the next compounds to make and test.

“Although these are complex problems and complex questions that we’re trying to solve, we take logical steps,” explains James. “For every question, there’s really an answer, you sometimes just have to spend a little bit more time thinking about it, and take a step back and look at what’s actually in front of you.”

Better molecules, faster

“In our group’s role in drug discovery, we have this mantra of ‘better molecules, faster,” says James. “If a chemist has 100 compounds that she’s thinking about making, computationally, we can help prioritize which ones to start with based on rational drug design.”

James enjoys being part of a team working to achieve a singular goal: to create medicines that will help the people who need them. And, he believes that collaboration is very important for research and development: “You can't do a project on your own; you need others to assist and help, not just by contributing in their individual role, but also with their thinking.”

James and his colleagues have a lot of experience with perseverance and determination, too. Our teams of scientists design, develop and screen thousands of compounds and antibodies to ultimately advance only a few of the most promising lead candidates into clinical testing. “Molecular design and development is an iterative process. You have to stick with it. It's continuously making modifications and adapting and evolving, eventually getting down the road or the pipeline to make a drug…that's what's exciting about it.”

It’s all about the patients

“Every day, I come to work knowing that I’m working to make a drug. And, I don't know if today I’m going to open up an email with results saying, ‘we've accomplished this” or ‘we need to change that.’ But regardless of what those results are, it's going to be progress to get to that end point.”



Name: James Fells

Title: Associate Principal Scientist, Computational & Structural Chemistry

Education:B.Sc., M.S. Organic Chemistry, Ph.D., University of Memphis; Postdoc, University of Tennessee Health Sciences

Favorite Downtime Activity: smoking/grilling food, spending time outdoors, and all things sports


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